The cars we loved.
Theres been a ton of stuff written about the Mitsubish Eclipse/Eagle Talon twins. Most of it focused on the Turbo all-wheel drive models. There were actually two non-turbo versions of these cars and eventually one as the cars progressed into the second generation in 1995. The bulk of Diamond Star sales were based on the 2.0 L 4 cylinder engined Eagle Talon and Mitsubishi’s Eclipse, with the Eclipse out selling the Talon 3 to 1 .
Partnership With Mitsubishi
The Talon was Chrysler’s part of the 1988 partnership with Mitsubishi that produced the Diamond Star Motor Company. The factory located in Normall Illinois produced a wide range of cars from Chrysler and Mitsubishi. The first cars to roll out of this factory were the (in order of numbers sold and produced) Mitsubishi Eclipse, Eagle talon and Plymouth Laser. The Laser was discontinued in 1994. It was never clear who designed what beyond the small trim differences that distinguished the Talon from the other two twins. The overall shape of the cars was unlike anything that Chrysler or Mitsubishi had produced in the past, even though it was based on the underpennings of the Mitsubishi Galant.
The Talon was arguably the best looking of the trio, with it’s Trans-Am like two tone color scheme and pop up lights. A redesign in 1992 despensed with the pop ups in favor of exposed lenses. New ground effects, rear spoiler and a rear light cluster that would become a design theme for future Talons. Basically a captive import with Chrysler badges on it, the Talon fulfilled it’s role as being the performance and showroom traffic generator for Chrysler, who was forming the Eagle brand to be it’s performance division. In the fall of 1988, three models were offered as 1989 models: base, TSi and TSiAWD. Two engines and two powertrain options existed initially.
Normally Aspirated Power
An advanced 2.0L DOHC 4 cylinder with 135 hp was the base engine. All Talons were front wheel drive (unless in TSiAWD trim) and featured struts up front and a kind of semi independent torson beam rear supension in the non-turbos. Buyers had a choice between a 4 speed automatic or 5 speed manual. One sporty attribute that set the Talon apart from much of it’s competition was it’s large (for the time) 16 in wheels. The large wheel contributed to Talon’s comfortable ride and good road holding capabilities. The interior, inspired by aircraft cockpits, featured angled dials and controls for easy driver access.
While the turbo and all-wheel drive models stole the spotlight, the base (later called ES after 1992) was the bread and butter of the Talon range. It wasn’t always easy to distinguish the turbo from the mid level non turbo models. All Talons, except the base, featured unique ground effects, 16 in rims and some had fog-lights. The only way to distinguish a turbo or all-wheel drive model was from a small decal just behind the passenger doors. Talon sales increased in 1993 when The DL model was introduced. Its 1.8 L 112 hp engine and somewhat stripped interior made it competitive with base Eclipse and Laser models.
All the non-turbo cars handled rather well, even though they lacked an independent rear suspension. While magazines like Car And Driver praised the top models, they quietly admitted that the non-turbo versions, especially the 2.0 was a better all around value as a daily driver. In what was then a crowed field, the Talon performed well against the middle versions of the Beretta, Probe/MX6, Celica and Prelude. With gas mileage in the low 30 using regular unleaded gas, the ES offered the looks of the Turbo, without all the expense. That seem to be the consuses among the non automotive press in general.
Sales increases continued and peaked as a new generation was offered in 1995. The 1.8 was gone and in it’s place a Chrysler built 2.0. The turbo retained a refined version of the previous 2.0. The new engine was not as smooth as the 2.0 it replaced, but offered better gas mileage, improved response and 5 more hp. The exterior became more rounded and in subtle ways more aggressive looking. Ride and handling quality was not dramatically improved, despite the addition of a fully independent double wishbone suspension. This might have been due to the weight increase as the inside was where an equally drastic improvement took place. The somewhat blocky, awkward attempt at ergonomics from before was rounded out, with a flowing curve from the console to the dash. A new 4 speed automatic and 5 speed manual were added also. By now, the Talon was distinguished even more from the Eclipse, but began to share design cues with other Chrysler cars being built by DiamondStar by this time (like the Sebring/Avenger).
New and Improved?
The second generation cars were not as attractive as their Eclipse stablemates, which were outselling Talons three to one and were offered in many more price points. A new Chrysler built 2.o engine replaced the Mitsubishi sourced 4G63 inline four from the first generation cars. Although the new mill made 5 more hp for a total of 140, it was seen as a step backwards due to its less sophisticated nature. The added weight of the new car also effected performance slightly, although the trade off was an improved ride and higher gas mileage (surprisingly). It was also considered to be less tunable for those wanting to add larger than stock turbos to it.
The ES models of the Talon like the GS versions of the Eclipse were all about compromise anyway. Those were purist concerns anyway. The middle market buyer had started to move on to the next coupe of the moment. As sales continued their decline, small changes were made to all Talons that made them all look more alike. The unique ground effects available on the 95-96 turbo cars was gone by 1997’s refresh. A new aggressive front end more reminiscent of the Eclipse was added and a redesigned high rear spoiler replaced the low rear window hugging crescent design.
The wheels went from 16 in to optional 17in on some ES cars. Now the only way to tell the turbo from the non turbo’s was by it’s dual vs. single exhaust. With sales under 5,000 units in 1998, Chrysler pulled the plug on the Talon and the Eagle brand as a whole. In it’s short production life the Talon infused the Chrysler brand with performance and sophistication lacking in it’s Dodge products. After the launch of the Dodge Viper, the performance mantel for Chrysler had begun to shift to Dodge and the Eagle brand was no longer needed. Chrysler had abandoned the aspirational import market of the Talon, after it convinced itself that they (potential import buyers) would be perfectly happy with what passed for sporty Neons and Avengers. They could not have been more wrong.